Twitter for business – beginners guide

In my day job I deal with a lot of businesses who are unsure about social media, and Twitter in particular. The questions and the opinions are usually the same – they feel ‘it’s a waste of time’ or they ‘don’t understand how it works.’ 

Hopefully this post will explain the basics of what all this ‘tweeting’ is actually about – and more imortantly, how it can benefit your business. 

Anything to add let me know! 

What is Twitter? 

Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ site. It allows users to post updates of no more than 140 characters. You can follow people who interest you, and people can follow you – and with over 140 million active users world wide, it is a huge online networking opportunity. 

Twitter dictionary:

  • Tweet: Updating your status in 140 characters or less
  • Follower: People who are interested in you ‘follow’ what you say. Your followers are effectively your audience
  • Re-tweet: Someone is interested in what you’ve said and tweet it to their followers
  • Direct message (DM): Private message sent from one person to another. You need to be following each other to do this
  • At (@) reply: A public reply to something you have tweeted
  • # (hash tag): A hash tag can be used in front of a word to make relevant posts easier to search for
  • Tweep: a combination of ‘Twitter’ and ‘people’. Commonly used to refer to followers
  • Trending topic: A trending topic is the most popular topics on Twitter that day. They often use the hash tag i.e.: #budget
  • Lists: The list function allows you to create a ‘group’ of people you want to follow. I.e.: ‘businesses in the South West’ or ‘UK football clubs’

Profile page - this is the page that your followers can see. backgrounds can be changed, and you can add a biography and website details. This is where your 'tweets' appear.

 

 
 

  

This is your private home page. Only you can see this.

What is Twitter used for?

Although you do get people who use their accounts to tell the world that they have ‘run out of milk’ or they are ‘feeling tired’ (not surprisingly, no one follows them), in a business environment Twitter can be used for: 

  • Sharing company news
  • Sign-posting articles that are of interest to your followers
  • Replying to customer questions and complaints
  • Monitoring your competitors
  • Seeking out business opportunities
  • Building trust with your consumers

Useful Twitter tools:

There are hundreds of tools out there to help make using Twitter even easier. Here’s just a few. 

Hootsuite – this website allows you to update numerous social media accounts at once, have multiple users, shorten URLs (meaning links take up less of your valuable 140 characters), provides statistics on click throughs, allows you to set up automatic searches for key words and phrases and lets you schedule tweets.

Social Mention – allows you to track your tweet and see how many people you have reached 

Twitter Search – people often forget about Twitter’s own search facility 

Tweetdeck – similar to Hootsuite but needs downloading to your desktop 

What are the rules? 

Well, there are no rules – but there are things that will make you popular, and things that will make followers delete you before you’ve even hit the ‘tweet’ button. 

Do: 

  • Develop a voice. Twitter is an opportunity for consumers to hear from you, the face behind the business. Show a sense of humour!
  • Listen and engage in conversations. There are tons of online tools to monitor conversations on Twitter (such as Tweetdeck). Search for words related to your business and join in the conversation.
  • Follow people who are of interest to you and your industry. With any luck they will follow you back and voila! you’ve started to build your audience (it’s worth noting though that just because you follow someone it doesn’t mean they have to follow you)
  • Say thanks. If someone ‘re-tweets’ something you say, or asks you a question, make sure you reply. You wouldn’t ignore someone in person and it’s sometimes just as rude online!

Don’t: 

  • Constantly tweet about the boring things you’re doing. Unless you’re about to sit down and have dinner with Richard Branson then no one wants to know. 
  • Don’t ignore your account. There is no point setting up an account if you’re going to update your status once every fortnight, but at the same time you don’t want to ‘shout’ at your followers by tweeting 50 times a day. Balance is key. 
  • Constantly promote yourself. The rule with Twitter is that you need to offer your followers something which adds value to their online experience. If you have something you want to promote then that’s fine, but balance it out with industry news and third party articles. 
  • Don’t get too personal: Once you’ve hit the send button whatever you write is in the public domain permanently. Be sure of what you’re saying and don’t mud sling in public. 

How much time and money do I need to spend? 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Twitter is easy and quick. It requires time and dedication to get a decent amount of followers – but more than that, a decent amount of followers who engage with you on a regular basis. 

Set yourself goals – 5 updates per day, add 5 new followers each day etc, to make it seem more manageable. 

How do I measure return on investment? 

Now this is a question which always gets asked and one where there is no black and white answer. It’s incredibly hard to measure tangible results on Twitter – and almost impossible to measure the effect it has on your bottom line. 

Although you can take a quantitative approach – how many followers do you have, how many click throughs have there been to your website etc, it can be much more beneficial to take a qualitative approach – who is engaging with you, are people re-tweeting your content? Is what you are saying having an impact? 

Whatever approach you decide to take, it’s important to remember that despite Twitter being the buzz word on everyone’s lips at the moment, that doesn’t mean it will work for your company. 

Think seriously about your objectives and goals; research, and listen to the conversation – are your target consumers on Twitter? What are your competitors doing? before you invest any time.

Why have some businesses taken so long to blog?

It’s been a busy week in the office with four of our clients taking up an exciting opportunity to blog on a regional business news website.

Blogs were one of the first forms of so-called social media. They offer a platform for commentary, an opportunity for reflection and, of course, encourage comments and discussion among peers.

But ultimately, a blog is there to make you a thought-leader, to get your name out there and boost your SEO.

So, why has it taken so long for some businesses to catch on?

Writing a blog can be a scary experience fraught with questions: what do I say? Am I good enough to say it? Who is going to want to read it? How can I talk about my business without giving away too much?

All of these are valid questions and ones PRs have to tackle on a daily basis when persuading clients of the potential of these platforms.

But they are questions that can be answered easily by examining your objectives and looking for examples from those in your industry that are already using blogging to their advantage.

Like all social media it can seem a bit daunting or confusing. Alot of businesses perceive it as a ‘fad’ or something the ‘kids’ do.

But don’t underestimate the power of blogging, or indeed other social networking methods like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

It’s not a fad – it’s a fundamental shift in the way the world communicates.

And it doesn’t matter what your business is, whether it’s a PR agency, a firm of solicitors or a paper clip factory.

Somewhere, there are people who want to read about your company, your news and your opinions.

There are over 9 million blogs out there with 40,000 new ones popping up each day.

Some of them are primitive, but a lot of them are incredibly powerful, and if you utilise the skills of the communications and IT professionals around you there is no reason why your blog can’t become one of your greatest assets.